Monday, June 18, 2012


(Photograph by Steve Creek and published at his wonderful blog, which is filled with great photography and worth a visit or a hundred.)

Last week I posted on the terrific example the Eastern Kingbird in noblejoanie's neighborhood provided us.

Nature notes: Watched a tiny eastern kingbird assail a bald eagle who must have done some nest robbing. Irate little bird actually surfed the back of the eagle furiously pecking his head for about 1000 feet. Saw similar outrage directed at a raven. Tough day for nesting kingbirds.

Yes, a tough day, but my response to their action was the obvious one:

I consider that an excellent metaphor for the very least we can do, so much so that I've created a new label, "Kingbirding." I suggest that as often as we can we peck mercilessly at the heads of the rapacious thieves stealing from our nest for as long as we can. If nothing else, it will annoy them, causing them to spend their oh-so-precious-time trying to shake us off.

And then this weekend I got the perfect example of what I meant. After 21 years of house detention, Aung San Suu Kyi finally got to deliver her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize awarded for her work to restore democracy to Burma. The full text of this great woman's speech can be found here. I encourage you to sit down with it when you some time. I think it is illuminating. In the meantime, I am going to provide some excerpts and gloss from the Los Angeles Times which got posted shortly after her speech was given.

“When I joined the democracy movement in Burma, it never occurred to me that I might ever be the recipient of any prize or honor. The prize we were working for was a free, secure and just society where our people might be able to realize their full potential,” Suu Kyi said. “When the Nobel committee chose to honor me, the road I had chosen of my own free will became a less lonely path to follow.”...

She recalled learning that she had won the 1991 Nobel Prize by hearing news of it on the radio in Burma, also known as Myanmar. With her movements restricted by the country’s ruling military junta, she was unable to receive the award in person; her now-late husband accepted it on her behalf. But the recognition helped ease her isolation.

“It had made me real once again. It had drawn me back into the wider human community, and what is more important, the Nobel Prize had drawn the attention of the world to the struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma,” Suu Kyi said. “We were not going to be forgotten.” ...

Her belated speech Saturday was made possible because of the Burmese government’s recent political liberalization, which has earned praise from around the world.

“There have been changes in a positive direction,” Suu Kyi said. “Steps towards democratization have been taken. If I advocate cautious optimism it is not because I do not have faith in the future, but because I do not want to encourage blind faith.”

Rather, all sectors of Burmese society must actively participate in and support the reform process, she said. And in the only part of her address to be interrupted with applause, she called for the release of other political prisoners in her country.

“I am standing here because I was once a prisoner of conscience. As you look at me and listen to me, please remember the oft-repeated truth that one prisoner of conscience is one too many,” she said. “Those who have not yet been freed, those who have not yet been given access to the benefits of justice in my country number much more than one. Please remember them and do whatever is possible to effect their earliest, unconditional release.”
[Emphasis added]

In other words, Aung San Suu Kyi isn't done kingbirding, but at least she is now free to invite her compatriots and the rest of the world to join her. Like Archbishop Tutu in South Africa while Nelson Mandela was silenced by imprisonment, like Rosa Parks who just refused one day to move to the back of the bus, Ms. Suu Kyi calls us to reclaim our rights, our due. They won't just be handed over, and we will have to struggle, but in the end I believe we will prevail.

And in the interim, we have an opportunity to drive those rapacious eagles crazy by our head-pecking.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will say one teeny thing. "Kingbirding" is exactly what I have been trying to articulate as a way to battle the conservatives. Thanks for naming it. Perfect.

5:08 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Amen, Diane.

7:01 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Alexander Wilson, the brilliant Scottish-American poet and ornithologist, wrote about the Kingbird (also known as the Tyrant Flycatcher) in these terms way back in the early 1800s.

He drives the plundering Jay, with honest scorn,
Back to the woods; the Mocker to his thorn;
Sweeps round the Cuckoo, as the thief retreats;
Attacks the Crow; the diving Hawk defeats;
Darts on the Eagle downwards from afar,
And midst the clouds, prolongs the whirling war.
All danger o'er, he hastens back elate,
To guard his post, and feed his faithful mate.

11:31 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

Thanks, folks.

And Mike, that verse is absolutely perfect for the metaphor.

1:38 PM  

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